Speculation over Belgium’s New Prime Minister

November 23, 2009 Updated: November 24, 2009

BRUSSELS Belgium—With the appointment of Belgium’s prime minister, Herman van Rompuy, as president of the European Union, Belgium once again is in search of a new PM.

In the Kingdom of Belgium, relations between the ‘Dutch speaking Flemish’ and the ‘French speaking Walloons’ have always been sensitive, resulting in recurring political crises over the years.

Van Rompuy became PM in December 2008, a position he had never pursued. At that time, Belgium’s King Albert II asked a reluctant van Rompuy if he would accept the job. Van Rompuy told the Belgium press, “I assure you, I won’t do it.” After a second request, the king got his man.

Belgium at that time was deep in political crisis. There was even talk about the country splitting in two. And Prime Minister Yves Leterme stepped down amidst a scandal over the sale of the bank Fortis to BNP Paribas.

With van Rompuy leaving the prime minister’s office open to become EU’s first ever president, the Belgium media is now speculating that Yves Leterme will return to replace his replacement.

Wilfried Martens, a former Belgium PM himself, has been appointed by the king to ensure an efficient transition of power.

Over the past weekend, Martens consulted with the leaders of the majority parties in the governing coalition.

According to Vice President of the Flemish Christian Democrats (CD&V) Steven Vanackere, negotiations were going very smoothly even regarding the touchy issues of communal dialogue and the split of the electoral constituency.

“I think a decision can go quite quickly now in a matter of days. There’s not really a crisis here and I think it’s clear that all parties accept that the decision should be made by the Flemish Christian Democrats to put forward a candidate as prime minister and we want our top politician Yves Leterme,” said Vanackere on Belgium Flemish television station VRT.

On Sunday, Leterme canceled his upcoming visits to Morocco and Algeria scheduled for Monday and Tuesday, a move picked up as a signal that Leterme is ready to return.